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Ireland No.8 Jack Conan wary of England backlash

By PA
Ireland's Jack Conan celebrates his second half try during a Guinness Six Nations match between Scotland and Ireland at BT Murrayfield, on March 12, 2023, in Edinburgh,Scotland. (Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Jack Conan insists there are no easy games against England after helping in-form Ireland stay on course for the Grand Slam going into next weekend’s Dublin finale.

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Andy Farrell’s side shrugged off a major injury crisis on Sunday to swat aside Scotland with a 22-7 win which keeps them in pole position for Guinness Six Nations glory.

England will travel across the Irish Sea seeking to spoil the St Patrick’s weekend party but reeling from Saturday’s record-breaking humiliation at the hands of France.

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Back-rower Conan, who claimed his country’s third and final try at Murrayfield, is wary of a backlash when Steve Borthwick’s men arrive at the Aviva Stadium.

“Look, they faced a quality French side,” he said. “We beat France a few weeks ago and I think they’ve got better and better ever since then and they’ve really bounced back incredibly well.

“France are hard to play against whether it’s home or away. I thought they (England) had some really good elements of their game but I know they will be disappointed and they will look to be better on Saturday.

“We know how difficult it’s going to be against England in the Aviva. There’s no easy games, especially against them, so we will need to be at our best, recover, look after each other and be better for how we played (on Sunday).”

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England capitulated to an embarrassing 53-10 drubbing against Les Bleus which emphatically wiped them out of contention for the championship.

Ireland, who are now vying with the French for the title, then underlined their status as the world’s top-ranked nation by overcoming the loss of five key players – Caelan Doris, Dan Sheehan, Iain Henderson, Ronan Kelleher and Garry Ringrose – during a dramatic visit to Edinburgh.

Conan extinguished hope of a Scottish fightback by adding to scores from Mack Hansen and James Lowe, having come off the bench to replace the stricken Doris inside 12 minutes.

The 30-year-old Leinster player is loving life in the Irish camp.

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“It’s the biggest privilege of our lives, I really think it is,” said Conan, who toured with the British and Irish Lions in 2021.

“We speak about it all the time that these are the best days you’re ever going to have.

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“It’s just a great bunch of lads. It’s so enjoyable. You just bounce into camp, you’re loving every second of it.

“We work incredibly hard and it’s difficult but the craic that we have, the camaraderie that we have is not something I’ve experienced in any other squad before, in any other team.”

The premature departures of hookers Sheehan and Kelleher against the Scots led to flanker Josh van der Flier throwing lineouts, while veteran prop Cian Healy filled the void in the number two role.

Conan felt the unfortunate and unusual circumstances heightened the sense of achievement.

“Lads were laughing,” he said. “You’re in the thick of it thinking, ‘what’s going on?’ It makes it even more of a special day that you’ve faced this adversity.

“It was one of the proudest days in green that I’ve ever been a part of.

“You really feel emotional when you talk about it afterwards about how proud you are of each other, about how much hard work and how much sacrifice you’ve put into it.”

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